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DECEMBER 17, 2010 (1:15 AM)

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Tony Schwartz
On:Managing yourself,Organizational culture,Work life balance Tony Schwartz

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Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything


2:21 PM Tuesday August 24, 2010 |Comments ( 181)

I've been playing tennis for nearly five decades. I love the game and I hit the ball well, but I'm far from the player I wish I were. I've been thinking about this a lot the past couple of weeks, because I've taken the opportunity, for the first time in many years, to play tennis nearly every day. My game has gotten progressively stronger. I've had a number of rapturous moments during which I've played like the player I long to be. And almost certainly could be, even though I'm 58 years old. Until recently, I never believed that was possible. For most of my adult life, I've accepted the incredibly durable myth that some people are born with special talents and gifts, and that the potential to truly excel in any given pursuit is largely determined by our genetic inheritance. During the past year, I've read no fewer than five books and a raft of scientific research which powerfully challenge that assumption (see below for a list). I've also written one,
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The Way We're Working Isn't Working, which lays out a guide, grounded in the science of high performance, to systematically building your capacity physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. We've found, in our work with executives at dozens of organizations, that it's possible to build any given skill or capacity in the same systematic way we do a muscle: push past your comfort zone, and then rest. Aristotle Will Durant*, commenting on Aristotle, pointed out that the philosopher had it exactly right 2000 years ago: "We are what we repeatedly do." By relying on highly specific practices, we've seen our clients dramatically improve skills ranging from empathy, to focus, to creativity, to summoning positive emotions, to deeply relaxing. Like everyone who studies performance, I'm indebted to the extraordinary Anders Ericsson, arguably the world's leading researcher into high performance. For more than two decades, Ericsson has been making the case that it's not

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inherited talent which determines how good we become at something, but rather how hard we're willing to work something he calls "deliberate practice." Numerous researchers now agree that 10,000 hours of such practice as the minimum necessary to achieve expertise in any complex domain. There is something wonderfully empowering about this. It suggests we have remarkable capacity to influence our own outcomes. But that's also daunting. One of Ericsson's central findings is that practice is not only the most important ingredient in achieving excellence, but also the most difficult and the least intrinsically enjoyable. If you want to be really good at something, it's going to involve relentlessly pushing past your comfort zone, along with frustration, struggle, setbacks and failures. That's true as long as you want to continue to improve, or even maintain a high level of excellence. The reward is that being really good at something you've earned through your own hard work can be immensely satisfying. Here, then, are the six keys to achieving excellence we've found are most effective for our clients: 1. Pursue what you love. Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance. 2. Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That's when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.

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3. Practice intensely, without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break. Ninety minutes appears to be the maximum amount of time that we can bring the highest level of focus to any given activity. The evidence is equally strong that great performers practice no more than 4 hours a day. 4. Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments. Too much feedback, too continuously, however, can create cognitive overload, increase anxiety, and interfere with learning. 5. Take regular renewal breaks. Relaxing after intense effort not only provides an opportunity to rejuvenate, but also to metabolize and embed learning. It's also during rest that the right hemisphere becomes more dominant, which can lead to creative breakthroughs. 6. Ritualize practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. As the researcher Roy Baumeister has found, none of us have very much of it. The best way to insure you'll take on difficult tasks is to ritualize them build specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.

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I have practiced tennis deliberately over the years, but never for the several hours a day required to achieve a truly high level of excellence. What's changed is that I don't berate myself any longer for falling short. I know exactly what it would take to get to that level. I've got too many other higher priorities to give tennis that attention right now. But I find it incredibly exciting to know that I'm still capable of getting far better at tennis or at anything else and so are you.

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Here are the recent books on this subject: Talent is Overrated by Geoffrey Colvin. My personal favorite. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell The Genius in All of Us by David Schenk. Bounce by Mathew Syed

* Thanks to commenter Rick Thomas for pointing out the misattribution.

Tony Schwartz is president and CEO of The Energy Project. He is the author of the June, 2010 HBR article, "The Productivity Paradox: How Sony Pictures Gets More Out of People by Demanding Less," and coauthor, with Catherine McCarthy, of the 2007 HBR article, "Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time." Tony is also the author of the new book "The Way We're Working Isn't Working: The Four Forgotten Needs that Energize Great Performance" (Free Press, 2010).

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Fbio Franco 3 months ago


While I agree that practice leads to mastery, I don't agree that natural talent is out of the equation. There are numerous examples that some perform better with less effort. Some learn faster some things and learn other things slower. I beleive everyone has specific areas they perform well or produce better.
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ferrox 1 month ago in reply to Fbio Franco


Practice is the sharpener for the big pencil; if you have this natural talent and never practice...someone of lesser talent but greater practiced ability WILL beat you every time.
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Arjun 3 days ago in reply toferrox


very cool
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to Fbio Franco

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What are examples of people who've achieved greatness with less effort? I see no evidence for that.
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COACH ERA 3 months ago in reply to Tony


Tony, I think Usain Bolt is excellent example of effortless excellence. Watch him run without a facial tension. It is incredible how he does this. Gandhi was another example, freeing his country in the way he did. In tennis Roger Federer is very close to this I think. His game is in the flow. Jim Currier Was a good tennis player as well, who was at no1 at one stage, but Jim was a pusher, like bull on the court, his game was hard and often not interesting to watch. Pushers do create result, but they often burn very fast because the energy they invest is incredible. In the business, at least in the west we have 99% pushers who at the end pay incredible price for their "wining game" ulcers, hearth attacks...including the harm to the systems around them. In the western culture we tend to be pushers. Our cultural imprints and beliefs are so powerful that I think is hard to even imagine for a westerner that effortless can lead to greatness. In my experience, the biggest enemy of the performer is his enemy within. The enemy within is also know as the inner critic or the super ego. This is the pusher. One of the fathers of modern coaching, Timmothy Gallway, call this enemy "self 2". (his books the Inner "Game of Tennis" and the "Inner game of work" describe this very well) Self 2 is the pusher, the masochist if you want. He tells (rather attacks us) with subtle, stealth like inner comments like: "you know nothing" "you made mistake again" "you are looser" "what have you done here"....etc. IT IS IMPOSIBLE TO CREATE TOP PERFORMANCES IN CONDITIONS LIKE THIS. On the other side or I should say deep inside, beyond the critical Self 2 is the PURE POTENTIAL within us. Gallway cals him Self 1. To tap the potential of Self 1, the person need to stay aware and present in a meditative zen like state of consciousness (this is the effortlessness). No one teaches us in the west, on our MBA or PhD studies how to stay present and in touch with our true nature and potential. That is why many of us think that effortlessness does not create results. Contrary, it creates the best possible results, but hey, it is easy to say than to do this since what I am describing requires incredible discipline, patience, wisdom and spiritual mastery. When our managers, teachers and leaders learn to master this, when we all start to function from this place, trust me, the results are incredible and then the sky has no limit. Viktor Kunovski Founder and M.D. COACH ERA www.skyisthelimit.org skype:vikunovski viktor@skyisthelimit.org

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(Edited by author 2 months ago)


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Joseph Fernandez 3 months ago in reply to COACH ERA


Viktor, You have some good points in your argument. However, I dont think effortless experience can be achieved without practice and attitude. One cannot achieve greatness unless one finds ways to practice. Look at all the greats; you will see that they have put tens of thousands of hours into their life practicing. Effortlessness comes ones you have the confidence and the actions become habits. When you were a child, you were taught to button your shirt. However, I dont think you care much about buttoning your shirt. It comes naturally to you and thats because you practiced early on. Some kids learn to read, write, and play music early in their life while the others lag. What makes them stand apart from the crowd is practice. In the article, Tony Schwartz highlights the importance of passion, perseverance and ritualized practice. In summary, my argument is that without ritualized practice you will never achieve effortless experience and move toward greatness. Innovation, performance improvements and everything about reaching greatness starts with the first few consistent steps. Have the passion, work hard and practice to achieve that passion, and get feedback and enjoy every achievement you make on the way (even if it feels trivial). Repeat it and you will create greatness for yourself and it will eventually become an effortless experience. Fail to use the formula and rather find shortcuts to achieve effortless experience, you will spin your wheels and reach nowhere. Joseph Fernandez, MBA, PMP.
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Lynn Svindland 3 months ago in reply to Joseph Fernandez


At Certain stages of our lives passion becomes key. When we are younger we do what we have to do . As we get older , we look for something we feel good about like helping others. I talk to many people who have looked for a possitive change in their personnal and professional lives. I have found passion in helping Seniors and look for those who want to also. Passion and consistency are a perfect combiniation to success.
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COACH ERA 3 months ago in reply to Joseph Fernandez


I totally agree on your comments Joseph. Somewhere in the text I mention " ...requires incredible discipline, patience, wisdom and spiritual mastery.'

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Perhaps the way to clarify my thought would be to say that by effortless I mean a psycho-spiritual state in which the mind is sharp, the body is relaxed, and the awareness is filled with presence. And this state is not an easy task. The students of Diamond Heart and other psycho-spiritual disciplines practice this trough meditations, sensing and open ended inquiry for minimum of 7 years.

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santhip 1 month ago in reply to COACH ERA


Good points in the comments.. Work can also become meditation.. moving meditation .. that helps in accessing the zen like state ..
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Shahzeb Saeed 1 month ago in reply to Joseph Fernandez


Dear Joseph, I cannot agree with you more. I may be biased, but I believe it is people like Viktor who makes even the simplest things on earth the most difficult and complicated. Shahzeb Saeed BBA, MBA IBA, Karachi
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Sarita Agrawal 1 week ago in reply to Joseph Fernandez


Joseph, I agree with hardwork and perseverance, but one key point in the article that do not agree with is, you can master anything, I believe we all have innate qualities and the key to success is to find them, work hard to excel in them.
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jek7788 3 months ago in reply to COACH ERA


I find it interesting that Gandhi is cited as someone who achieved things with less effort, but he is the founder of Satyagraha which is both a philosophy and a practice.

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Jon Abbas 1 month ago in reply to COACH ERA


so why you named your company is skyisthelimit.org? :) I liked the article and what you wrote. I do think that I am confused on the aspects of Personality and Values System...can that be improved? JAZ
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J V RAO 4 weeks ago in reply to COACH ERA


I totally agree with Vktor Beyond a point its more of mental game than physcial.Its all in the mind . If we first believe in we cando sure we will. I am not saying paractice is not important. Its important. Beyond that its purely mental ability. Lance Armstong - world cycling champion and cancer survivor is classic example of this jv rao Whrilpool of India
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Kwesi Sena 3 months ago in reply to COACH ERA


That is a brilliant way to put it. I perfectly agree with what you have said. We need to be self aware in order to know what we can do best. Nice comment.
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Arjun 3 days ago in reply to COACH ERA


I did'nt know that
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IP 2 weeks ago in reply to COACH ERA


I don't think Gandhi is a god example for "effortless excellence"- quote on quote. Myself being from India knowing his history. He had to work really hard to achieve independence for India. He had to sacrifice a lot to inculcate "non-violence" as a method of freeing India. I am actually with Tony on this one.
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Wared 3 months ago in reply to Tony

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Tony, A lot of the examples used by people here can be hard to justify. However, have you ever seen Lionel Messi play? (football, or soccer). The way he does his out-of -this-world dribbles and feints is certainly not because he puts in more effort than other players, quite the contrary in fact. He is 23 years old now, has been in Barcelona's first team since he was 16, and has been arguably the best player on the planet for the past couple of years. Do you really think that if the other millions of players put in the same level of effort as Messi, they would be in the same category as him? A short search on Youtube for videos of Lionel Messi as a 5 year-old with the ball at his feet will answer your doubts about natural talent and the role it plays in success. Wared
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Raguand 3 months ago in reply to Wared


Another proof that Messi has been practicing for a long time and just like the cliche: "Practice makes perfection." Nobody can argue against this.
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Terry Dillon 1 month ago in reply toRaguand


Technically I would argue that 'Practice makes you better at what you practice' an important distinction.
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Jack 1 month ago in reply to Terry Dillon


World class MMA coach Greg Nelson's motto is "Practice Makes Habit"
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Chrissympb420 3 months ago in reply to Tony


obama
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Jacobo Van 1 week ago in reply toChrissympb420

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Obama, when actually leading, not bending to a possible risky solution; maintain the full court press that got him to the Office.
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Steve Klein 1 month ago in reply to Tony


Hey Tony...try your hand at dunking a basketball and see if natural talent (or height) is out of the question. Don't you believe a 100 meter sprint champion has more natural talent for speed running than you or I? Some of us are born with natural gifts for performing certain physical, mental or creative endeavors better than the rest of us. Honing that talent is a process.
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al 1 month ago in reply to Tony


I worked with a guy who was a mathematical genius and excelled at financial modelling. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't attain his effortless performance. I never gave up, but I truly sympathise with descriptions of "intense practice" in this text. Yet, whilst it worked for me, I always saw it as a way to compensate for my natural lack of talent/ ability.
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santhip 1 month ago in reply to al


Put in 10,000 hours into mathematics with determination and passion.. That should give life to the genius in you ..
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Aggrey 3 months ago in reply to Fbio Franco


It takes much effort to build a talent.
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Boniface Makau 3 months ago in reply to Fbio Franco


Agreed. Talent is a gift from God. Use it well. However, the old saying that practice makes it perfect still stands.
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tommy 1 month ago in reply to Boniface Makau

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I think this is simply the best comment. There are 2 types of comments, some based on extreme examples (Messi case) which has not much to do with probably all of us. The other type is general examples that are all true yet contradicting each other. These examples are 1- be relaxed to achieve your best - be confident, etc 2- practice to improve Both are true, if you practice you improve and build confidence. On the other hand, if you are not apt in math don't push so hard because you will lose confidence as opposed to gaining. All in all, I believe that you should practice what you are doing well to do it great and if your are talented you might reach to a state where you will be relaxed and performing well.
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Ed Q 3 months ago in reply to Fbio Franco


I agree completely, Fbio. One need only think of the effect carpal tunnel syndrome has on keyboard abilities (both musical and typing) to realize that no amount of practice will ever overcome some physical limitations. It is of high importance, however, to learn your limitations, or (better said): know your boundaries. You can then tailor your goals with those in mind (whether you choose to fight them, massage them or go around them) and make them part of your winnning game plan.
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to Ed Q


More than 99 per cent of us, I'd argue, have no idea what our limitations are, because we haven't pushed ourselves nearly hard enough to discover them.
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John 3 months ago in reply to Tony


I can't say that a lot of good came from the Vietnam War, but, as a nineteen year old, I was pushed far beyond what I perceived my limits to be, and that lesson has stood me in good stead; from a college dropout to a PhD, I've learned that my "limitations" - academic, physical, emotional, and professional - are far beyond where I initially thought they were.
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Santhanam 3 months ago in reply to Tony


true
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leot 3 months ago in reply to Ed Q

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But "natural talent" does not mean "natural limitations". Talent is magical. Limitations tangible, real, non-normative.
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sheik77 6 days ago in reply to Fbio Franco


perhap's it's because they are more trained to learn... :) Indeed, you have to consider that practice begins at birth
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Ame 1 month ago in reply to Fbio Franco


You know what,people perform better with less effort received better training in childhood times ,nothing to do with talent`
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junendure 2 months ago in reply to Fbio Franco


I quite agree with u.There is no denial that natural talent plays an important role in learning things.But we can not ignore the significance of practice.Without hard work, even the brightest mind may become a fool.
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Lonniebsmith 2 months ago in reply to Fbio Franco


Talent is just the beginning.
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Wei 2 months ago in reply to Fbio Franco


How do you find out which talent interest that is worth of developing into a career?
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Al 2 months ago in reply to Wei


Your answer comes from asking the question; WHAT DO I REALLY WANT TO DO? Ask yourself this question just before you sleep and as soon as you wake-up. The answer will come to you based on your desire and passion for that which you seek. I know this from experience,

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I wrote about it in; EXPECT THE BEST...LOVE YOUR DREAMS CAUTION; When you receive 'your answer' trust in the power of pursuit and greet every challenge with a sincere smile and positive thoughts of creating your destiny. Best wishes, Al Lavery www.goldenbulls.us
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Fr Ndepo 3 months ago in reply to Fbio Franco


I do think most of the time they perform in things in which they find passion as said in the keys, they learn faster in things in which they find the most interest. But I still am questioning about the 4 hours and 1/2: is it really possible?
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Fadeevdm 3 months ago


There is a abstract from 1985 book Aquarium by Victor Suvorov about Soviet military intelligence, which says the same thought: Man is capable of performing miracles. A man can swim the English Channel three times, drink a hundred mugs of beer, walk barefoot on burning coals; he can learn thirty languages, become an Olympic champion at boxing, invent the television or the bicycle, become a general in the GRU or make himself a millionaire. It's all in our own hands. If you want it you can get it. Most important is to want something: the rest depends only on training. But if you simply train your memory, your muscles or your mind regularly, then nothing will come of your efforts. Regular training is important, but training alone decides nothing. There was the case of the odd character who trained regularly. Every single day he lifted a smoothing iron and continued this for ten years. But his muscles got no bigger. Success comes only when the training, of whatever kind (memory, muscles, mind, willpower, stamina), takes a man to the limit of his capacity. When the end of the training becomes torture. When a man cries out from pain and exhaustion. Training is effective only when it takes a man to the very limit of his capacity and he knows exactly where the limit is: I can do two metres in the high jump; I can do 153 press-ups; I can memorize at one go two pages of a foreign text. And each new training session is effective only when it becomes a battle to exceed your own achievement on the previous day. I'll do 154 press-ups or die in the attempt.

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We were taken to watch future Olympic champions in training. There were fifteen-year-old boxers, five-yearold gymnasts and three-year-old swimmers. Look at the expression of their faces. Wait until the final moments of the day's training, when you can see on a child's face the grim determination to beat his own record of the day before. Just study them! One day they will bring home an Olympic gold to offer to our red flag with the hammer and sickle on it. Just look at that face: so much tension, so much pain! That's the road to glory. That's the path to success. To work only at the very limit of your capacity. To work at the brink of collapse. You can become a champion only if you are the sort of person who, knowing that the bar is about to fall and crush him, nevertheless heaves it upwards. The only ones who have conquered themselves, who have defeated their own fear, their own laziness and their own lack of confidence.
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Tony 3 months ago in reply toFadeevdm


Brilliant, I think, and thanks for sharing it. Huge insight into why so few people reach for greatness.
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notmd 3 months ago in reply to Tony


we must not forget that there are trade offs..you may become the greatest at something but you could suck as a parent ...breaking an olympic record may lead to breaking your children's hearts
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Mitch McCrimmon 3 months ago


There is a lot of writing around today on this controversial issue. First we had the "play to your strengths" bandwagon of the last 10 years which said we could happily ignore our weaknesses. Now, there is a book of articles by experts saying that weaknesses can't be ignored: (The Perils of Accentuating the Positive). I have a few of the books the author cites but haven't read them yet. However, I have been doing managerial assessments for over 30 years so I naturally have my own opinions on this issue. What strikes me is that we tend to want all-or-nothing solutions - some like to say that it is ALL nature, others ALL nurture. No one seems to want to see that it could be a bit of both and that it could vary across types of skill and individual people. In my opinion, some people do have natural talents that others could never approach through any amount of practice. At the same time, there are no doubt other people who have improved themselves a great deal through practice. Still, I doubt very much that absolutely everyone could become whatever they want through practice alone. Sounds nice, but not reality, in my view anyway.

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(Edited by a moderator)
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon


Mitch, My central point is that we have immensely more potential for improvement than we recognize or cultivate. Until we do the work it takes to reach excellence, it seems pointless (and even counterproductive) to assume that we're not capable of anything to which we're willing to devote intensive practice. Ericsson's point -- and he's far and away the best researcher in this field --is that there is no good evidence that anyone -- including Mozart, and Einstein and lots of other so-called geniuses -- demonstrably had more talent at birth than anyone else. It's also true that it's nearly impossible -- possibly just plain impossible -- to find anyone who has achieved greatness at the highest level without outsize amounts of practice and dedication.
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Mitch McCrimmon 3 months ago in reply to Tony


Tony, I'm sure you are right that "we have immensely more potential for improvement than we recognize." But this doesn't imply that some people do not have a head start for whatever reason. Also, it doesn't imply that it isn't a lot harder for some people to achieve excellence. I'm sure, to use your tennis example, that a lot of tennis players have practiced as much as Roger Federer without being as good as him. Even simple skills like this, however, are really a complex set of talents including hand-eye coordination, intelligence, speed, etc. This is even more true for complex skills. I don't have any evidence, but I believe that some skills are easier for some people to improve than others. Having said that, I'm all for using practice to improve. I just don't think it is wise to give people the impression that they can become absolutely anything they want to be through practice alone. This is stretching a good truth into serious exaggeration - only my opinion, I must add.
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Wap1102 2 months ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon


I agree w/ you. However, in most fields it takes guts and pro-active action to achieve excellence. Also, the willingness to get up when you've been knocked down, time and time again. As a practical matter: "Get up early . . . get to work an hour early and leave an hour late . . . do the best you can, everyday . . . treat people as you'd like to be treated . . . ask, believe, and receive with undoubting Faith . . . and good things will happen."
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Glautiere 3 months ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon

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If one explores to discover what she really likes and pursues it with passion, dedication and absolute focus, excellence inevitably ensues. You can make general points, but please, back them up with cold hard evidence.
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Wared 3 months ago in reply toGlautiere


Hundreds on millions of athletes discover what they really like, pursue it with passion, dedication and absolute focus, yet do not achieve excellence. To repeat my post above, if you want "cold hard evidence", you can do a youtube search of some of the world's elite athletes back when they were kids, I don't mean 14 year-old who train, I mean as 4 or 5 year olds. Even at 10. I don't know much about tennis, but in soccer, watch some clips of Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, etc when they were kids, and you can attend any kids soccer game you like, at your place or internationally, and compare the level at which they play. Some people are born with talent. Do you think there is no other sprinter who trains as hard as Usain Bolt? Many train harder, with more passion, dedication and focus, yet they do not, and (for the absolute majority of them- if not all) will not reach his level of excellence.
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to Wared


Don't agree. Again, there is a difference here between excellence and worldclass. True enough that to become world-class is something only a few can achieve -- but that's different than excellence -- which is a high level of skill, and I believe is achievable by nearly anyone who puts in the dedicated effort.
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Liliana 3 months ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon


Hello Mitch, I appreciate your 30 years experience in managerial assessment and would love to know more about it. As a ''strengths based management'' fan, I can see that you understand it is about ''happily ignoring weaknesses''. How did you get this impression? The main point I got is that you can only reach excellent performance if building on strengths,(talent + knowledge + skill + feeling of purpose, passion, satisfaction) instead of building on weaknesses. You just need to manage or ''work around that weakness'' and more so if it is ''crucial'' for that job - ''high impact weakness''. 20 years later I understand why I was great manager, now consultant and coach and was just an average engineer. All my top strengths are in use every day now (Maximizer, Positivity, Developer,

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Relator, Empathy) and I just did not know that as a young engineer and was feeling weak, bored and frustrated. Clifton was talking about movement of positive psychology and ''If I can do it you can do it too'', ''If you can perceive it you can achieve it'' attitude that we try to terrorise ourselves with. He points out that before you apply such advice it is wise to check you are building on strengths. I figure that otherwise you can keep putting all hours, days and years in practising, practising and God knows if you will ever reach excellence, let alone world class performance. Thanks, Ljiljana
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Vinita 1 month ago in reply toLiliana


It is Attitude not Aptitude that decides ones Altitude. we humans have this funny knack of doing things sometimes out of want, sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of ambition sometimes because everyone is doing it. To reach up there one needs to posess certain natural talent and definetely the hunger to drive him. Regards practice: Practice may not make perfect but makes permanent. hence it becomes extermely important to keep learning, changing and adapting
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Mitch McCrimmon 3 months ago in reply toLiliana


Thanks for the comments Liliana. I certainly agree that some people can excel by playing to their strengths and, like you, I was once a strong believer in this way of working. Now, I'm not so sure, having read the book: "The Perils of Accentuating the Positive." The authors make the point that different strengths are required at different levels, that sometimes strengths can become weaknesses and that we sometimes have to develop new strengths. Also, they point out that we can sometimes be in roles where our strengths don't match the requirements of the job. A good example is the engineer who is great at analytical thinking and continues to want to use this strength in management where a more facilitative style is required, where it is more important to draw solutions out of others than to do all one's own thinking. My feeling now is that the "play to your strengths" idea is overly simplistic and does not accurately reflect reality, which is more complex than this. Having said that, I think it is good to remind ourselves of our strengths as that can help us build and maintain our confidence.
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Wap1102 2 months ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon


Playing to your strengths may be a good way to start out. But, if you're successful, you will inevitably rise to your level of incompetence, UNLESS you overcome those things that will eventually hold you back. One must continuously grow in the direction of their future career. Many geniuses fail because they under develop those practical skills that this world rewards

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most generously. Successful people do the things most people dont like to do. And continuous improvement is the key to success in most ventures.
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Liliana 3 months ago in reply to Mitch McCrimmon


Nothing to add to this, absolutely agree that our strengths do not match requirements of all roles and jobs, or levels and would not like anyone to understand it all in simplistic way, and as ''take it or leave it'' statement, like: ''this is who I am and what I know and now I and my company are stuck with it, no need to learn, practice or try something new.'' Strengths are the starting point for me, perhaps the guidance where the strongest resources are, and apart from confidence they need to produce performance. That's what I want from myself at least. One definition of strengths in Buckingham's book is ''Constant near perfect performance...'' definitely more than ''just '' feel good stuff, and who wouldn't want that? Thanks for reply and recommending the book, I am going to have a look at it now.
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KareAnderson 1 month ago


#7 Cultivate and support diverse networks to be able to tap the wisdom of the crowd and leverage your strongest talents with experts extremely unlike you around sweet spots of mutual interest to accomplish greater things together than you can on your own in this increasingly complex yet connected world
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ferrox 1 month ago in reply toKareAnderson


IF the "crowd" is composed of people of merit and are WORTHY OF TRUST!
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Renga Iyengar 3 months ago


It is a nicest piece on performance betterment..Let me add a thing or two here. 1. All our performance depends upon how good and wakeful our brain is. This is the main thing here. Pl check this and find out how to keep your brain in a good state - for this you need to contstantly rate yourself and never berate yourself - how much ever poor you have performed. 2. Brain needs good oxygen - not just air. If you check this thing alone you will find you hardly get good air except in a green forest ! Air conditioners and other such entities are not really helpful to this - but you have no choice. 3. You need to put your brain to rest , periodically. This is done by trying to be 'present in the present'. Just forget imaginations, thinking and all that stuff. Just look around and just look at what ever is there - you will be totally surprised at the things that are there for ever but you never noticed. Well, may be you know how to work with your brain in a better way..but be sure to keep it healthy !

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Rgds Renga
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to Renga Iyengar


Could not agree more that we have vastly undervalued the role of rest and renewal in achieving excellence over time. That's why I included it as one of the keys in my list.
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J. Alan Miller 3 months ago


Intense practice will help you gain skill? get the ef out. I wish I could bill you for the five minutes of my lunch hour I spent reading this crap.
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to J. Alan Miller


Awfully, unnecessarily hostile. Did you miss some of the other insights? Were you aware the the maximum human capacity for focus is 90 minutes? That you should be taking a full renewal break at that point? That great performers practice for a maximum of 4 1/2 hours a day? That will & discipline won't help you build great habits, but rituals will? And, I might add, that anger shuts down the prefrontal cortex? Cheers, my friend.
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dawmail333 3 months ago in reply to J. Alan Miller


Bill him? Maybe he should bill you for the waste of his bandwidth. Seriously dude, it's called tact. I for one, find this advice sound. Have to apply it, trying to learn Blender. In which case, probably help to add tutorials to the list.
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Lena 3 months ago


Dear Tony, Thank you for your post. I strongly believe that if you want to be good at something you should work hard, and everyday practice is what makes miracle happen. From my personal experience I can say that "talent" is overrated. Every person posesses a huge learning potential, however, many people choose an easy way by saying: "I can not do this, I have no talent for this". This phrase sometimes put in children' minds by teachers, parents, society, etc. Once a person grows he becomes accustomed to the fact that he is not talented and,

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therefore, there is no reason to try something new. Leading an "ordinary" life and hiding under the mask of "no talent" is perhaps the easiest way. Some people, on the contrary, know that they are talented, but they are just lazy to do something. These people often say: "If I had more free time I would have learnt this". There'll never be enough time, time management is what makes the wonder. I started learning swimming, playing piano, chinese language, etc. at the age of 28. And I have to say that nothing is impossible as long as you really want to achieve something, and you put your heart into this. Of course, you will have to sacrifice something in order to achieve the desired result. In my case I sacrificed sleeping for swimming. I had swimming classes every morning from 6a.m. to 7 a.m 3 times a week, but in order to be the best in the group I used to swim every day. I achieved the goal and now I am pretty good at swimming. Majoring in classical guitar, I always wanted to play the piano, but I was always told by my parents that I would not be able to do so. I proved that persistent every day practice makes the difference, and now my parents are amazed to hear me playing the piano. I am still struggling with learning Chinese characters but I believe that I can do this. Never give up if you want to achive your goal, believe in yourself, and don't listen to those people who say that you can not do this :-))
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to Lena


Amen!
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Jason Dick 3 months ago


Thanks Tony, This was a powerfully motivating little piece. It's a great blueprint for success. I believe in the basic tenets of this and have seen it replicated time and again. Pushing past the comfort zone is so critical to achieving excellence in any capacity.
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rsotacab 3 months ago


There is a book called "The Brain that changes itself" that explains exactly what happens in our brain when learning a new skill. The conclusion of the book is that our brain is plastic enough to learn any skill, but with age it gets less plastic unless we keep it plastic by exercising it.
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Shashank Tripathi 3 months ago in reply torsotacab


I think you meant "elastic", not plastic?
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Jessjones 2 months ago in reply to Shashank Tripathi


He is referring to the plasticity of the brain, and yes it is said that plasticity is greater in early age (you can teach a child anything and make it believe anything). But because children need to make conclusions and take some things as fact their mental plasticity decreases. This also means that when you believe that you can do something your brain will "erase" the conclusions made in earlier life (childhood), making you able to learn a skill the way a child would learn it. Dont make the mistake to think you can fly though, because in early life you might've learned that humans can't fly on their own and now you decide that that specific assumption was made too fast (There actually exists a group of monks that tries to fly by jumping all day long, and they say they make some real progress but none of them can actually fly yet).

Dont make the mistake to think you can fly tho, because in early life you might've learned that humans can't fly on their own and now you decide that that specific assumption was made too fast (There actually exists a group of monks that tries to fly by jumping all day long, and they say they make some real progress but none of them can actually fly yet).
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Skeptic 3 months ago


I have read several of these books. They always leave me unsatisfied, because they don't try hard enough to prove themselves wrong. I have seen no effort to find people who put in 10,000 hours and failed. The legend is that they exist. I've heard references to chess players who devote endless time to the game and are B players. I've heard of people who put endless time into mathematics without any great result. I find it quite plausible that 10,000 hours are a necessary condition for success. I'm much less confident that it is sufficient. Another factor: opportunity at the right time. You cannot become a violin virtuoso if you start later than age ten. The reason is that outstanding violinists have a larger area of the brain devoted to finger sensing than others. In order to develop this it is necessary to start young enough that the brain has sufficient plasticity to get there. Another truism is that no one will become a great sprinter without a high ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch muscles, which is something you are born with. Consider singing. Joan Sutherland became great amazingly quickly; OTOH nothing short of a new upper body will ever let me sound like Pavarotti. Finally, I note that one reason for failure to find failure might be that people without the needed talent in a given area quite sensibly decide to channel their efforts elsewhere. This possibility also needs to be taken into account.
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Pai 3 months ago in reply toSkeptic


I have a different understanding to being "excellent at anything". The benchmark you have used is comparing one to others i.e. whether one could become the best through practising. And you are right, I

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could put in 10,000 hours or even 100,000 hours into chess and is still a B player. A different benchmark is, of course, comparing to yourself. I may never have become a B player, or even know how to play chess, if I didn't put in any effort. Being B rated is obviously not the best in the world, but at least I know I've tried my best and explored the limit of my boundaries. To me, "being excellent at anything" is trying my best in delivering whatever I do. A different perspective of looking at this topic is asking "whether we could possibly be the worst at anything we do?". "Hell no" might be a version of the answer as the competitive you wakes up - and it is this feeling that drives us to devote hours to achieve excellence. Don't give up trying just because you aren't the "best", as you might never find out whether you truly have the potential to be the best or not.
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Jessjones 2 months ago in reply toSkeptic


Your right in saying that the amount of time you put into something does not immediately relate to high achievements, or at least breaking your own limits or even achieve better as most others in that field. This is because you forget one very important variable in the calculation, which is awareness. The moment your aware of what youre doing, and in some cases what your opponent is doing / thinking and in other cases what the laws of physics will throw at you etc, you will truly understand what is necessary to make it. There are books written about this in many different languages and planes of understanding, but their basic rules are the same. For runners people speak of runners-high which describes a state of mentality where nothing matters just the fact that you keep running as fast and as long as you physically can (till you die in some cases) Whenever you enter a state of mentality like that you will notice that your perception of the requirements for your current goal becomes painfully obvious as opposed to your normal way of perceiving things. However, this does not mean that you will instantly become the new superman for that specific subject. It only means that at that specific time you know what you need to train to become even better. So i guess that what Tony intends to say is that the training is key, as long as you train the right components for that specific goal. And to see that you need a fine understanding of that goal, because even if you perceive the component you still need to link the pieces to their correct spot. The amount practice required for every component can differ, and because your perception also differs on a daily basis the amount of time you need to practice a specific component can also change on a daily basis. This is all loosely based on Einsteins ideas of relativity. At the moment there are even people that call themselves scientists that believe that perception actually influences scientific facts. My belief is that it goes the other way around; the only thing that changes is our future way of perceiving because we build further upon our new found facts. With this been said there is no possible way of proofing my facts. I just hope that others will be satisfied with my arguments and will think for themselves, starting with challenging my statements.

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If you have any questions about how I inteded anything of the above just send me a PM
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Glen Jones 3 months ago


I'm a golfer with modest talent, and I've followed a rigorous regimen for about twelve years in an effort to get better. That regimen includes practicing four nights a week and playing three times a week, during a season that lasts for about 8 months. Over the years my game has gotten better, to the point where I am now a 5 handicap, down from 10 when I started. So far so good, Tony, I am living proof of your theory that dedicated practice can improve ones execution. However, where I may differ from you, is that I firmly believe that we are constrained by out talent levels, and for example, I simply would never have been able to run the 100 meter dash in 9.5 seconds even if I had the best coaches, the best training regimens, the best competition, the best nutrition, etc. and started at age 5. I tell my friends that I've squeezed every drop of juice out the lemon that is my golf swing, and that any success I do have is a result of maximizing the best part of my game while minimizing the worst. There is no subsitute for innate talent, no matter how hard or how smart you work. I have proven that to myself and to my friends who marvel at my work ethic, dedication, and application of technique to my sport.
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Marcus9000 3 months ago in reply to Glen Jones


Glen I think you are missing the point a little bit. To master a skill you need 10,000 hours of correct practice. That would include feedback meaning you are creating muscle memory for your golf swing, but if you have weaknesses or errors/faults then you are only grooving in bad habits. Plus there is a mental side to many sports which is the main factor that separates the top 0.1% in the world from even the rest of the professionals in any sport. That is the hardest skill to acquire though it can be improved. But I think the point is this: if you put in the 10,000 hours of proper practice then you may not become World/Olympic champion or a Major winner, but you would become good enough to compete at a very high level. Where that level is I am not sure, but perhaps in golf you could become a pro (playing on a minor tour?). 10,000 hours works out at 2 hours practice a day for 15 years. So it is a lot. And remember we're talking practice... so the hours you spend on the course is not practice (unless you are playing yourself trying different shots). Nick Faldo is an example of a golfer who had modest natural talent but had incredible discipline (ingrained by of all people his mother who forced him to practice in afternoons when the other young players went home) and a great mental side to his game. He wasn't as talented as Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam or Sandy Lyle, but he won more majors than they did due to his love of practice and his mental strength. So again I do believe that if you practice properly for the 10,000 hours you will become very, very good at any sport or skill.
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Mattewmo 2 months ago in reply toMarcus9000


Marcus, I think what you said above are partly right. Admittedly, the more we put in practice, the better we would perform. So subject to your perspective, you may concieve that we should not accentuate the benchmark that comparing with others, instead comparing with ourselves, then you come the conclusion that nurture(practice) is the key to our success, comparing with the ourselves. However, in my views, what you said just right imply that it is the nature, the talent that funtion, when we explore deeply into your views. The point you stress is that practice can make us better, even though not the best. But the degree of the improvement is different. Now let us imagine: Both persons put the same amount of practice to play basketball, then the outcome is one perform better than the other. How come ? Talent. The one who does better are more talented than the other in the certian activity. So I am the worse one, I would rather choose not to play basketball. Adversely, it is wise for me to pick up the job in which my strength lie, for under the same amount of practise, I can be more successful in my talented field than in the other fields. Just cite Nick Fildo as an example, if he put the same amount of practice that he had with the golf in the fields where his talent lies, I think he would do the best in it, not just the better in the golf. Do things right, or do right things? It has been widely acccepted by most of managers in a survey that we should do right things. Do things right means put right practice to things, to some degree, it entail the right practice. But do right things apply that we should do what we actually good at which is determined by the talents that you born with. Clearly, we will see that "do things right" connect to practice and "do right things" related to the direction. Compared to practise, direction is more important. Going in the right direction, you will achieve more with less cost. And the direction is based on the your talent!
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notmd 3 months ago in reply to Glen Jones


Glen..sorry to hear that you left the largest golf group in the country..the hackers..but on a serious note, using your example,I think talent becomes less important in the equation(talent x perspiration x missing componenet=success) if you develop your skills at a much earlier age..let's say at the age of 3 your father placed a childs golf club in your hands and you (key word) enjoyed hitting the ball(i didn't say talent),you would be receptive to developing that skill and someday could play as well as Tiger..so i would add one more item to the equation and that is passion(adult word) or enjoyment(childs word)..there are musicians today who have the talent and work hard but their end game is to acquire something(fame,celebrity,money etc) and there are those who have the same talent and hard work but perform because they are having fun(child word for passion)..I hope the 5 handicap is too much of a burden..you are always welcomed back into the club
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Hilu Pilu 3 months ago


It was interesting to remind the self that practice can help you learn everything you ever wanted to. In your heart you know that you can do it. But your mind always brings practical excuses for not doing it.

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Susan 3 months ago in reply to Hilu Pilu


I know that this is cheesey - I think I read it on a greeting card... "Imagine what you could do if you thought you would never fail"
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Soni 3 months ago in reply to Susan


Good One.
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pbr90 3 months ago


One thing missing from this list: ethics Practice of ethics is essential to excellence so that sense of achievement is warranted, to not fool others, but most of all, not to fool oneself, the height of ignorance and narcissistic reliance that is self defeating.
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Prabhat Tiwari 3 months ago


Passion invokes innovation. There is no alternate to hard work. We should practice, update and always renew. Good piece of article. Scope of this topic is vast hence all aspects cannot be covered in this blog.
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Imtiaz AHMAD 3 months ago


Dear Tony, Thanks for this motivating post.Here are my two cents.I think background matters a lot.We should acknowledge the fact that learning happen both on conscious and subconscious level.People gets good in certain disciplines by accident (so to say) because they have some memories on subconscious level.Practice sharpen their innate abilities and nature blessed them with more hunches.What do you think? Kindest Regards, Imtiaz
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to Imtiaz AHMAD


No question that learning takes place at a conscious and an unconscious level, or explicit and implicit as it's sometimes said. The trick, ultimately, is to move learning from explicit to implicit, so it gets expressed automatically -- as in playing the piano, or hitting a tennis ball. Because these are such complex activities, the conscious mind actually gets in the way when it comes to execution. The more automatic these activities become, the more the conscious mind is left free to improvise ...
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Lucy 3 months ago

"Practice intensely, without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break." Since when is 90 minutes a short period? Most people (especially those with young children) are lucky to get 10 minutes of uninterrupted time.
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Mehmet Kayapal 3 months ago in reply to Lucy


I can talk for myself, it is easy to concentrate 90 minutes if you are doing something that you love. When I read an interesting thing, world stops for me. If I don't like the thing that I read You have to pull a gun to my head for 5 minutes. If you want to be succesful in something, that is imperative that you love it. Otherwise...
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to Lucy


Lucy, The point is that no matter how hard we train, we can't focus intensely for MORE than 90 minutes. It's absolutely true that most of us struggle to focus intensely for even short periods of time -and the overload of technology has a lot to do with fracturing our capacity for attention. One way to build attention is to set a specific period of time, with a clear stopping point, and then rest. We build capacity by pushing against resistance -- in this case distractions -- and then recovering.
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Daniel Chaytor 3 months ago


I like your article, and agree with most of your points. It is obviously true that some people have what is termed "innate" abilities and "talent". However, as you rightly point out, many of the limitations we experience are as a result of beliefs imprinted in our minds early on in life - that we have to be "born that way", or that other people outperform us because of inherent genetic ability. History, though, is replete with accounts of individuals who developed their potential and excelled much later in life. No matter how complex the activity,

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sport or performance, the right mindset, belief system, and the six keys you've outlined here can turn seemingly ordinary individuals into high performers.
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Dougieladd 2 weeks ago in reply to Daniel Chaytor


Totally agree.. speaking as one who did start later in life. I'm 43 now and still "practising". Great article though, very interesting...
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Terry wilcox 3 months ago


Hi great list to improve performance, but I think this is only half the story and a very western view of the World! You are using being extremely good at something individually and therefore dedicating immense time and effort to improving it as your definition of human excellence. That human excellence is just maximising your performance! I think that actually this is not how your brain actuals sees the World or operates and the latest neuro research tells us this. The Eastern way would say you have missed the point of life all together! Human Excellence, as the human brain evaluates it, is actually achieving the maximum reward from the minimum effort. Rather than exerting tremendous effort to achieve a goal as per the 10,000 hours view of the world! Your goal is to play tennis at a level that you always dreamed of, and you have made improvements .. do you view this as excellence? Dont get me wrong .. I am also past my best and still compete competitively at sports with people half my age, and to me this is extremely enjoyable but to me definitely not excellence! So, regards the six steps, great steps to help you on your journey to make something nearly autonomic .. but according to my theory of human excellence that is the lowest form of brain function. When you are in this zone your brain actually goes off to doing something far more rewarding - Stimulus Independent Thought (SIT) and that is human excellence at its highest form. So, good list but dont think that they deliver excellence. Terry www.theoryofexcellence.org
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Jessjones 2 months ago in reply to Terry wilcox


I can't agree more with you, but you're the one missing the point at this moment. In a perfect world everyone would live according to "your" theory. At the moment however it's impossible for everyone to have the required amount of clarity at the same time to be able to solve global issues. This is the one reason why someone can have "more power" as someone else. So even though a "higher" state of mentality could generate happiness, it also generates a lot of sadness. Hinduism claims to have the solution for this problem. They make people believe that 1

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person has more moral value as another. This way of cheating would theoretically work, because: "For the highest state of mental clarity you need to let go of all attachments (mainly emotional and instinctive). That way you will be able to enter Nirvana." But even in America I have not come across someone who could be that selfish. That been said, for these other people that describe excellence as mind and body working together to achieve a single goal: "Yes, practice makes perfect, as long as you keep your head and rest now and then."
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Perry Donnafield 3 months ago


I agree with the author to a point. As Glen Jones mentions above, there are very few people on the planet that can cover 100 meters as fast as Usain Bolt. I began my running career as a sprinter at the young age of six. Ever heard of me? No? That is because I don't have the same genetic abilities as Usain. I think there are certain disciplines where 10000 hours of practice do lead to expertise. But in others, especially athletic disciplines, those hours are overshadowed by pure ability. You may end up with great sprinting form, but you still won't beat Usain.
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bonadventure 3 months ago in reply to Perry Donnafield


Something here you seem to be missing. You don't have to be the fastest in the world to be world class. If you want to perform something really well and you practice enough you will get consistent world class results.

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Tony 3 months ago in reply tobonadventure


Precisely, as in my previous comment!
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to Perry Donnafield


Many environmental factors help account for Usain Bolt's greatness, including his support system, the culture in which he grew up, the amount of practice he put in, the quality of his coaching and his mindset as a function of his varied life experiences. To really know what you were capable of Perry, we'd have to find out how some of these other factors match up against those who've achieved greatness as sprinters. Having said that, my guess is that if you put in 10,000 hours of practice as a sprinter, and got some of the other key factors right, you did indeed achieve excellence as a sprinter, even if you weren't one of the world's best.
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Don Pilarz 3 months ago


The author has missed the point! His keys are only a reasonable basis for becoming adept at very specific single tasks or small groups of them. Doing complex activities like sport, music, or interpersonal relations in business requires the coordination of these activities with our whole brain. For instance the key points in the article can actually be quite harmful when applied to the study of music while ignoring all the subtle motivation of movements which sum to express musical meaning. Technical wizards rattling off myriad fast notes are boring and anti-musical. Winning in tennis means a lot more than hitting the ball well. Running a business in an effective, humane and sustainable way requires human interaction and empathy which belittle the already difficult singular tasks involved. Talent is the innate ability to perceive and understand the need for such higher level coordination and summing. What is worrying is that what I have just stated has been said repeatedly over many centuries if not millenia. Its not news. A slightly broad literary background would make this evident to anyone bothering to investigate. Its no wonder MBAs are causing so much damage in business if they are being fed the misconceptions in this article! The article has some true elements but lacks the salient development and conclusions.
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to Don Pilarz


There is a hierarchy of training. First we must develop the core technical skills, and move them from conscious to unconscious, explicit to implicit. Only when we've reached a certain level of proficiency is it possible to begin to improvise, and move beyond pure technical expertise. Some of that comes from great coaching. Some of it comes from recognizing that complex activities require different kinds of training, so that a leader who is great with numbers may well lack empathy -- which can also be consciously cultivated. The real point here is that in a world of growing complexity, the demands of greatness and the training it requires are higher than ever.
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winkleink 2 months ago


Very interesting debate. My 2 cents. Be are born with physical/mentail make up which gives us the potential to be amazing in certain pursuits. When you figure out which pursuits you can be amazing in and love it just appears to work. Items 2, 3, 4, 5 and become easrier and more fun, so you can be your best. As an example. I'm 5' 9", so any sport their height is an advantage means I will always be fighting an up hill battle. I can become very good, but it will be hard work. By contrast I feel I have a strong analytical streak and enjoy it so I seek out problems to solve and look for ways to get better. If your natural aptitude and love are for the same thing the world is your lobster.

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Germain Archambault 2 months ago


A lot of interesting comments. Talent is no coubt part of the equation. But what I read in Mr. Tony Schwartz's article is "you can become the best YOU can be" (my quotation marks) with the talent you have. Develop your own talent to the max requires discipline and method and... you've really got to love what you're doing.
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Anil Kumar Karamsetty 3 months ago


i like this article..i always pursue what i love.and i work relentlessly to achieve my challenges..thank u for boosting up my confidence.
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Skeptic 3 months ago


A followup to my earlier comment, from the Freakenomics blog: "A painful (for me) case in point: my daughters pursuit of balletic glory. She started with the Maryland Youth Ballet at the age of five or six, with stars in her eyes, and kept at it through high school spending three or fours hours in the studio every day after school, as a result of which she had to stay up past midnight most nights to finish her homework, also devoting summers to the same pursuit when she was old enough to be admitted to the summer training programs of the Princeton and Miami ballet companies. She was second to no one in diligence or desire, until, eventually, she was checked, hard, by the increasingly obvious fact that she was relatively lacking in certain innate abilities crucial to balletic success, as compared with others in her school, and that no amount of effort on her part would make up for it."
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Tony 3 months ago in reply toSkeptic


I find it hard to imagine that your daughter didn't achieve some reasonable level of excellence given that much work. There is a difference between excellence and world class. There are very very few people who ever get to the latter, and a rich confluence of factors contribute beyond hard work -including temperament, quality of coaching, the kind of emotional support they get along the way. There's lots of pleasure to be derived from pursuing a passion even if you don't become world class.
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Heather Brynn 3 months ago in reply toSkeptic

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I think that there are some body characteristics that can influence the ability to become excellent at certain sports, which may not have to do with talent.
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Joseph Ludford 3 months ago


I am late to the discussion, and may be out of my league, but want to comment anyway. I have read Outliers and Talent is Overratred, and absorbed ideas from both books. I was born with high potential to learn and did so in schools to my benefit, but missed out on developing understanding and behaviours needed to function well in my career. In retrospect I know that I was limited by a fear of interacting with people, which might explain my blind spot. I am retired, but still working to pass insights on personal development to younger people. I would like to see the element of individual psyche and its improvement added to the discussion of high performace.
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Esoos Bobnar 3 months ago


"The Art of Learning" would be another good book on that theme.
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Ambastha Vivek 1 day ago


HI there, I dont know why he has written some thing sort of 6 steps to being excellent, on the basis of few researches. i am totally disagree with that. Researcher should consider his/her research on the basis of continent, not county wise. I hope its clear to related people.
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markrva 3 days ago


This excellent presentation reminds me of Twyla Tharp and her book "The Creative Habit". She intuitively understood the need for a repeated, disciplined way of developing talent, and backed it up with specific examples. It's nice to see research back up her axiomatic book.
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Swati Batra 1 week ago


Dear Tony, This is really a nice and a brainstorming discussion. I agree with you that practice is very important to succeed in any task but only if there is a will to do

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so.Another important thing is if we make that work our passion and love it, then it becomes easy to master it. In all the above discussions we are stressing on hard work to have a mastery but where does the concept of smart work comes then as nowadys to excel in any field that is also important? Can you pls answer my query. Regards, Swati Batra
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Roy 1 week ago


Practice makes perfect, or as close as you can get given time, effort and focus. Inspiring stuff.
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Kevinh 1 week ago


Practice perfect.
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Cath Adenle 1 week ago


Tony, thanks for a brilliant article. The main point out of the six keys to achieving excellence for me is the first one - Pursue what you love. Time and time again, it's been proven that we succeed and perform better if we do what we love doing. Steve Jobs for instance is a college drop-out who did what he really enjoyed doing. He spent ten years building Macintosh in his garage and turned that to a multi million dollar company. We all want to have an optimised life and by doing what we love, we will enjoy our time, yield higher quality and quantity of works, our works will have touches of passion and we will have a fulfilling life.
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Blaise 1 week ago


I agree with the positive messages and challenges profiled in these comments. It would be useful to read my first book --You are the Limiting Factor-- which shows that we are responsible for our own outputs and that we have more control over the inputs used to generate these outputs that we give ourselves credit for. Enjoy the read and share the messages with others.

Blaise http://www.mriwex.ie/

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Pablo K. Ramos 2 weeks ago


While I agree with the deliberate practice statement and with the article in general, it is incredible that here we go again with the dogmatic assertion that 10,000 hours are needed to become and expert. How can so many people fall for this without blinking is frankly beyond comprehension! Statements such as those should not be taken for granted, and I think the argument that proposed it became sort of the flavor of the month to be quickly accepted, digested and incorporated into the management jargon without as much as a dissenting voice or intelligent scrutiny. Let me just make a few comments and pose some questions: 1. Definition of Expert: What is an expert? - It is NOT an absolute level anyone can reach. It really is a comparative level of knowledge. An expert is a person that has a profound level of mastery of a given subject, compared with the state of knowledge of the rest of us, right? 2. Age of the Activity: How old the subject matter is has huge relevance on how much knowledge it takes to become an expert. For instance, violins, (according to a quick Wikipedia inquiry) date from the early 16th century. They have a long, deep history, and for someone in the present to master the violin, she needs to compete with a huge established body of knowledge and surpass it. 10,000 hours would probably be insufficient to accomplish that. On the other hand, I just found a new instrument called Tenori-on that has just been unveiled into the music market. (some electronic 16x16 matrix sound board) Do you think you would need ten thousand hours to be an expert in it? as much as mastering a Stradivarius? Cmon!! remember, Expert is your mastery of something respective to everyone else. Another example. Snow Skiing has been around for many decades, if not centuries, and being an Olympic ski gold medalist is a truly outstanding accomplishment. Not very long ago, in comparison, snowboarding came into existence, combining skills from skateboarding, surfing and skiing. Months later, already there were experts. The first time a snowboarding world championship was held, I am sure it gathered many experts and there was a world champion crowned. The ultimate expert in the field. Did he have 10,000 hours of training in the sport? No!. Not even the sport itself was 10,000 hours old!! 3. Intrinsic complexity of the subject matter: Some things just require a higher level of skill than others. How can you say it takes the same amount of deliberate practice hours to be an expert in nuclear reactor design than in building a model Eiffel tower with popsicle sticks? Ten thousand hours for both. 4. Popularity of the activity: the more popular, the more competition there will be in mastering the subject matter. Even a very old subject of knowledge, if not popular, could not have developed enough complexity to make it really hard to master in comparison. On the other hand, other areas, such as for instance, the Rubik Cube, became so popular that the level at which you would consider someone to be an expert kept rising constantly. 5. Expertise is a moving target. Even if you acquire the so-called expertise it is not only a subjective measure and compares with the knowledge of the rest of us, but breaktroughs in the field may render your expertise null and void. Example: Was Galileo and expert? Absolutely. Even a genius of our times, Stephen Hawkings said that "Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science." You probably cant get a better endorsement than that. However, his main theory was Heliocentrism, in which he claimed the Sun was the center of the universe, and everything rotated around it. His expertise would be defeated today by my six year-old daughter, with her two hours of learning on the subject. Please put this stupid notion to rest, or Ill come back and write more examples. Ten thousand.

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Pablo K Ramos 2 weeks ago in reply to Pablo K. Ramos


Still me. I missed a key point: Natural abilities. Do you really think it is the method of deliberate practice what makes you an expert? Can I take my unfit self and use the deliberate practice method Michael Jordan used, stick to it for 10,000 hours and become a Michel Jordan? How about if I find a "better" method? Then I'd be better than Jordan. Nike, Here I come! Think Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Lance Armstrong or any other athlete whose body, bone and muscle structure are the exact dimension and proportion to excel at their particular task. Why is it that black athletes are consistently better at short track races, but not necessarily on marathons? It is muscular structure, not hours of deliberate practice.
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Bercana 2 weeks ago


So you mean if I work hard at something I'll get better at it? Wow wee. Who'da thought!
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Jeffrey Bennett 2 weeks ago


Wow, fantastic article! So all these years, the saying "Practice makes perfect" was actually right on target. Hahaha!! 10,000 hours of practice is definitely a good chunk of time to get really good at something. As a photographer and website designer, I can say for certain that I have definitely spent well over 10,000 hours on each, as I am incredibly passionate about both! Thank you for sharing this article. It's very inspiring!
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Ug231 2 weeks ago


Many of us will try to find flaws in Tony's notion: Surely I could not become a concert pianist at tis stage of my life, even if I did practice 4 1/2 hours a day. However, the key take-away that I have learned from Tony's article is that if I commit to practice consistently and deliberately in a field that I am passionate about, I can and WILL improve my performance ten fold, relative to my currently one. And this is empowering. Uri
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Tony 2 weeks ago in reply toUg231


Thank-you -- exactly what I meant, captured simply.
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Josh Berkowitz 4 weeks ago


Thanks for the insights Tony: Doing what you love is the most important thing because it fuels focus, passion,and desire to create. That is invaluable in a world of constant distractions.

http://www.jbsfinancial.org/co.../
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heidikraft 1 month ago


Tony - I have a question for you. Re-reading this post and continue to appreciate it's simplicity. As an executive coach I use this approach to help people focus on the big picture - what they want - and make it happen. The way we approach our goals, our relationship with space and time and our rhythmic process to get there are inherent in the work I do. The majority of my clients are advertising/marketing folks. As a creative industry, what I tend to get resistance from is not only ritual which we know is critical for creative success, but also the industry or perhaps societal belief that a creative mind NEEDS to operate differently I had someone the other day mention that she'd never seen a creative director begin work before 11am. And they believe that's just the way that it is - it's the freedom they need. Do you have examples or studies that can help to address this? www.kraftyoursuccess.com/blog
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Tony 1 month ago in reply toheidikraft


Heidi, Thanks for the note. I'd refer you first to Anders Ericcson's research, including his seminar 1991 study of the violinists. That study shows that it's not only musicians who practice in very ritualized ways, at specific times (the mornings, sessions no more than 90 minutes, breaks in between, total practice time invested no more than 4 1/2 hours a day) ... but also writers, chess players, athletes and other musicians -- a creative lot, all told. In order to be creative it is necessary to operate differently than do people in more task-driven professions, but in fact I think ritual is even more important. It's especially critical to create sacrosanct time that is uninterrupted, and to create environments that allow the brain to shift easily to right hemisphere dominance. Betty Edwards writes brilliantly about this in "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" and "Drawing on the Artist Within." Finally, I like to believe that I use the creative part of my brain in my own books and I feel I write more productively and more richly since I began a highly ritualized way of writing, based on Ericcson's

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understanding of the violinists, and lots of other research suggesting that we're most effective when we work rhythmically, moving between intense effort and intermittent rest. A little long winded, but hope that helps. PS: As for the idea that creative people somehow need to start work later in the day, I see no scientific evidence for that at all. It may just be personal preference, and creative people tend to be given more rope by employers.
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heidikraft 1 month ago in reply to Tony


Thank you so much for your reply. It really helps! I agree that they tend to be given more rope and often it's just an excuse. Thanks for the additional info from Betty Edwards. I'll check it out. And I'll let my creative clients know that they're no longer off the hook - ha!
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Epeebles 1 month ago in reply to Tony


Disclosure: HBR editor here. On the topic of creatives showing up at 11:00: I don't put any value judgment on this at all, especially as I'm often an early bird but notdon't get any true creative energy until the middle of the day or sometimes even five minutes before I have to go home. But if you're interested, you might check out a recent HBR piece that contends that the early worm does, in fact, get the worm: http://hbr.org/2010/07/defend-... Ellen
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Joseph Putnam 1 month ago


Two points that are really important are: 1) doing something you are passionate about and 2) setting up scheduled times for "practicing." If you do something that you're passionate about, it won't be as difficult to put in extra hours. That's why entrepreneurs can put in so many hours without as much burnout as a 9 to 5 worker. Scheduled times for "practice" make all the difference because trying to decide what to do next takes a lot of energy. If you already have something scheduled, you don't have to waste any energy deciding whether or not you want to do that thing. I have a lot of experience wasting energy without a schedule. Having a schedule is much better. Thanks for the awesome post!
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Enricohernandez 1 month ago


Great article, I really believe in having a passion for what you do and combining this with repetition and visualization of what you want to achieve.
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LMSerros 1 month ago


When I first read this article, I was reminded of my piano lessons as a child. Drudging along with practice everyday after school never felt like passion, and to be honest, when I would go to my piano lesson every week, I never felt like I had mastered the piece. I practiced for at least an hour each day and even tried to cram on the day of my lesson in hopes that I could show my teacher that I had practiced. Half the time I would get so nervous that I would mess up (didn't matter that I had been with that teacher for years) and the other half I was so worried that she would know that I hated the music and had no motivation to play it. I wanted to play jazz piano, but was told over and over again I needed to learn the classics first. What I didn't realize what that by learning the "basics" I was learning the skill of discipline, how to be resilient outside of my comfort zone (where I didn't connect with classical), and to be patient with my progress. Currently, I am in a leadership development program for mid-career professionals that is comprised of a rigorous academic curriculum and a 9-month mentorship experience. Both of the components overlap and definitely push me outside of my comfort zone, with little time to rest. I relate to the article because with such a diverse group of people in the program, I have seen myself grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I believe that being willing to work hard is essential for progress, but would like to point out that "working hard" is subjective. I feel that people are complex entities and that their past helps dictate their future. For example, I played the piano for several years, but never played sports; thus, I often have a difficult time in very competitive settings because I was not exposed to both of the positive and negative effects on a regular basis. In this program, my colleagues come from different educational and cultural backgrounds, some of whom had more opportunities than others, while others steadfastly hold onto their past experiences to inform their actions and decision-making. These factors need to be considered when striving for excellence, because in my opinion it is how we were conditioned as a child and how we developed into adulthood that impacts our performance. We all need to take a good look within and determine how we can redefine our comfort zone boundaries, help each other to have more patience with our collective progress, and find the 'hard working note' that is necessary to tackle new adventures for growth.
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NUFmolina2011 1 month ago


It is encouraging to know that with enough practice, success at anything is possible. As one in the midst of a paradigm shift, I understand that an investment in time and repetitious behavior are the only true ways of mastering a skill. Navigating through unfamiliar territory is not easy. The challenge requires you to have patience and tenacity to see it through, otherwise you lose focus and give up. I know with a little tempering and continuous execution, reccuring themes do emerge making the task of learning a new skill less daunting. Does this mean that if I devote the next 10,000 hours to deliberate soccer practice, I too can compete in the next World Cup?
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DB Wienke 1 month ago


I think Napolean Hill emphasized your tenets for greatness in the classic "Think and Grow Rich". Great practices for professional growth never die.
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MRWED 1 month ago


We all want to be excellent in every ways that we are taking. You have an excellent list! We have inborn talents and skills but if we dont practice and use it, it will turn out nothing.
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Adwel Lo 1 month ago


Having taught children and adults for 20 years, to play piano, I can say: adults learn much faster and more efficiently because they want value for money and know the validity of ritualized practise. To achieve at anything you must implement daily steps every day, whether you feel like it or not. Soon becomes an unbreakable habit and is valuable "me time"! I doubt genetic anything but a person who has to have always outpaces a person who can take it or leave it. Be passionate and go for gold :)
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Nick Waddell 1 month ago


Good article. Remember the phenomenon of "Baby Jordans" in the NBA? During the mid to late nineties, anyone coming out of college with a certain size and jumping ability got this label for a while; Jerry Stackhouse, Harold Miner, Grant Hill....there was only one Jordan because he combined and intangible with his physical gifts; he worked harder than anyone else.
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David Tyson Beckford Ruva 1 month ago


Quite insightful,this!
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Lu 1 month ago
I totally agree on the points,"delay gratification", very good.
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Brian Murphy 2 months ago


Dr. W Edwards Deming a great statistician and management consultant once said that it is not enough to do the right thing, one must know what to do and then do the right thing. It reminds of the difference between leadership and management. Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right thing right. I reminded of a time after a long gym session when I sat into this small pool for relaxation and said to the other person in there that this could not get any better, to which, they pushed the switch to turn on the jacusi bubbles. Relaxing had just got more relaxing. Hard work and dedication are a key step in achieving your aim but you must remember that quality is queen, so do things right first time, work smarter not harder as they say and always aim for quality not quantity in your endeavor. Remember that if you only put in quality to your product, service, solution, performance, etc., that's all you get out. QED
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Modele Tubosun 2 months ago


This is so true and deep....only if we apply it to our lives...in all areas always
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Ken Holecko 2 months ago


All of these books and articles are based on analyses of a self selected group of high achievers. People self select what they like around what they find naturally easy to do, based on their natural abilities. The idea that you can just choose to be great at anything based on the time and quality of practice appeals to a Western value set that emphasizes the importance of personal choice. But if we have learned anything from modern medicine it is that there are important biological differences between humans and that these biological differences can make large differences in what we can do. Take tennis. A short player in today's game has a big disadvantage in the men's game, due to the leverage a taller player can generate with his body. It's no accident that Roger Federer has dominated the men's game at 6'1", as did Pete Sampras. There are no Rod Laver's on the men's tour now and there never will be again. No runner over 175 pounds has set a world record in a distance event in recent years. Anyone over that weight is considered a heavyweight. We know that there are vast differences in IQ, emotions, and other aspects of human behavior. Can you get better at something by working at it at age 58? I am sure you can. But if you don't have the right DNA, that gives you the coordination, dexterity, and ability to hear the notes you want to play, you are not going to be the next Yo Yo Ma, no matter how many hours you practice. To the extent that the publications suggest that lots of practice is a key ingredient of achieving world class accomplishments, I am sure they are right. Practice is a necessary, but not sufficient condition of that level of success. We would be far better off acknowledging that people have different innate talents and that there are no easy routes to success.
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Carrmike 2 months ago


Hi, I have an issue with "Pursue what you love," in my life. There has been allot written about if you do what you love than you will never work a day in your life. Well sometimes the reality is that allot of us have to work and take whatever job is available and survive in that job. I have not worked for a company or done anything

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in my work life that I truly feel passionate about. Therefore at 41 I am now not sure how I would go about finding a passion. I believe allot of people are like this, we get caught up in doing what we need to do to survive that even if we had a passion we are unable to pursue it do to time and financial constraints. When Given URL is not allowed by the do to the previous mention have disappeared into the back of our we were younger we had passions, which Applicationaconfiguration. a focus but due to customers requirements moved into too many directions heads. Like company that had and lost its plan to become the best at... How do you get companies, people to become passionate about what they do, or how do you get them off the dead end freeway and onto the right freeway.
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John Calhoun 2 months ago


I'm often amused at the offerings of those proposing a step-by-step solution to a common issue as if issues such as these exist in isolation from a spectrum of influences that create the issue in the first place. Having said that, I also admire those who offer a path out of a wilderness for those less adept at problem solving at times when such help is needed. Been there. As a flight instructor for 22+ years I've seen the value of a fresh way to look at things when faced with a critical problem to solve. Where possible, I'd add to the #5 step, a limit of 15 minutes of activity on any one event ..... a break sometimes gives our subliminal mind an opportunity to engage with a better option than the one we were focused on. Kudos to Mr.Schwartz ..... for offering a better way.
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Hmsbusinessteacher 2 months ago


Simply an amazing article! I share with my students frequently that where you invest your time is where you will find the most success. Although that success might be in an area that isn't socially heralded, be prepared to deal with the repurcussions of your investment. I'm definitely adding the Aristotle quote mentioned in the article ("We are what we repeatedly do") to the classroom wall today.
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Ptyagi 2 months ago


First of all, I would like to appreciate the article and agree that it makes a lot of sense. We can't completely disregard the impact of what we genetically inherit and also the circumstances and ambience we are brought up because it does matter which school/college you went to and what kinda people you grew up with... However, there is simply to substitute to hard work like you have no shortcut to success. Well said that we got to do things repeatedly and consistently to expect desirable results in near future. To master a particular aspect of life or any such thing in our life, it is imperative to have an unshaking focus and a lot of effort with no looking back. But before believing in all of this, one must be able to identify the strength each of us possess. And once you have identified your area of interest and something which really excites you and something that you feel is your destiny, all you gotta do is to pursue it and not stop until you have accomplished it.... And yeah this holds true forever "It doesn't matter whether you win/lose, what matters is atleast you had the grit to step forward and give it a try"

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Just look around and you would all the masters in their respective fields to have put in loads of effort and determination to make it happen. Follow the six keys and dont be surprised to kiss success.
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Resmi S 2 months ago


This is a very interesting and inspiring article. I thank Mr. Schwartz for sharing his ideas. I see a lot of discussions/debates had been going on since the article has been posted. It is fascinating to see how people have difference in opinion and how much their perceptions vary. However, I think it depends solely on a person's conception about spirituality and life. Certain people, including myself, believe in God which make some of us conclude that what we do or become are the gifts that he gave us. Some others might have certain other valid reasons to put forth in the matter. Anyhow, I think it is that concept that keeps us going and achieve what we need. Ms. Madhavi stated above that its all about finding what excites oneself. I agree with her on that. If we think we have got a talent (or a gift from God), we try for it, and we finally accomplish/excels in it. If at some point we give up thinking this is not for me (or may be God did not give me that specific talent, it is for someone else), that is when we stop thinking about it and not attempt to get a good result out of it. Some people might like music, some others would prefer dance, yet another group will go for reading, could be sports and games too. I think that is influenced by what we are accustomed to seeing or feeling very often during our childhood days or so. Could be our parent's tastes that helps us like music, (or may be hate them because you are being disturbed by music while you were doing something else). So to conclude, I would like to mention that it is solely upto a person to believe in a sole concept and go forward with it, be it God's gift to man, or our own determined attitude. But in the last, only we will try, only we will practice, and only we will achieve. This could be utter nonsense from a 22 year old girl. But just wanted to speak up what I thought. Kindly correct me if I am wrong in any way. Thankyou :)
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Secpsl 3 months ago


Do you run 100 meters below then 8 seconds? Nothing is impossible. f you want to do it you can it whether it takes long time or not. But, it is obvious that it absoultely depends on your genetic inheritance. Usaim Bolt needs less than 5 years for practicing it. But, on the other hand, almost all of us need some more decades to do achieve this goal.
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Mgavoor 3 months ago


I like the six points. Applied at any point, one can improve ones performance in any endeavor up to ones own potential. Will Tony improve as a tennis player? Sure. Will he qualify for the US Open? Not likely. I recently ran across this quote. I do believe it applies here.

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Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. ~ Vince Lombardi
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Dr. Hubert Rampersad 3 months ago


There is much more to Being Excellent at Anything. This article doesn't cover these other things, see this new book " Be The CEO of Your Life" http://bit.ly/2IF7X9 Dr. Hubert Rampersad Personal Branding University North Miami Beach h.rampersad@pbu-edu-org www.pbu-edu.org
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Bruceeast 3 months ago


I completely agree
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Howdoiexplore 3 months ago


I think everyone has their own "natural ability". If we trust ourselves to be who we are, we will find that which comes naturally in us. This we will find, will be viewed by others as a natural talent. The same is true for those who persevere and put in the hours to learn a new talent. I think this is similar to evolution, where either by determination, or circumstance we change or adapt our natural abilities. Thank you for this post, it has been of value for me.
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Khi2 3 months ago


I'm so loving this topic! I am a social worker and a graphic designer. I know, that's a strange combination of skills to have, but that's what I do. Often enough, when I work on a project as a social worker, I will also come up with the promotional material for it (posters, flyers, web site, etc). What's really interesting is that people will tell me that they admire my work (when talking about the social work aspect of it) and that they admire my talent (when talking about the graphic design part of it). Funniest thing is that I always felt more "gifted" as a social worker than as a graphic designer (which is a trade I had to work extra hard to learn). Go figure...
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Mandeep 3 months ago


Great article, my favorite part is 90 minute focus. Time management is very helpful in managing your career and advancing. Robin Sharma , author of 'The monk who sold his Ferrari', suggests 21 days for cultivating a new habit or improving the old ones. Focusing on the small steps and breaking down the tasks is key to achieving the goal and preserving energy for unforeseen challenges.
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Napoleon's son 3 months ago


Great discussion... Pursue what you want and you will get there... But what if you are not sure about what you want ? What if you are very good at something and you are continuesly challenged ... you might be pursuing the wrong things because you are pursuing what others expect from you; How to discover what you really want... what is your mission ???
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Tony 3 months ago in reply toNapoleon'sson


Very big question. I've written about it at length in my book "The Way We're Working Isn't Working" Hope it provides some answers about finding your calling!
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Sir Oldman 3 months ago


One of the keys for reaching excellence that has worked for me but often overlooked by novices is the willingness to start at the very, very bottom. Those who want to skip the lower rungs because they are smart, beautiful, impatient..... are severely handicapped as managers absent the knowledge of what is happening down the chart. People gifted with extraordinary talent get off the starting line quicker than normal folks, but there is certainly no guarantee that they will always lead the pack. Example: in a group of martial arts students, there will often be a student with a natural talent advantage, but others will catch up, and the entire group, with a proper instructor, will achieve black belt rank. On the 10,000 hour practice regimen, the critical element is practicing the right way rather than becoming proficient with flawed technique. Is it possible that generously gifted talent may serve to narrow the recipient to their "long suit" at the expense of developing other skills?

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Bijan Himself 3 months ago


Lol... I love the irony of the fact that K. Anders Ericsson is an expert on expertise.
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R C 3 months ago
Hi Tony Thank you verymuch for the valuble information about the hiddent strengths and talent within the human being. I do agree that the every person posses unique types of potentiality whith in him. if his talent and interest became match, he can achieve the miracles. And ofcourse the practice of his/her areas of interest can lead toward the destination. RC Lamichhane, Kathmandu
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Ikechno 3 months ago


I love your article especially the part that says we should do the hard part of work first. Imbibing this culture has made my colleagues at work compliment me on skills I learnt through a process I saw as painstaking. Excellence is simply "gain from pain". Thanks.
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Ajayfinancial 3 months ago


very good thoughtful article its very much obvious to a good performer.these lessons are working you all along with life and keeps you right momentum of learning by these steps if you follow correctly you will find very obvious and successful result for every student,manager,enterprenuer as well as a good leaders.
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Jeff.R. 3 months ago


Hardwork and practice are a pre-requisite for everything that we need to acheive, but i feel that the tricky part is to actually find that one thing which you are really passionate about. Though it may seem simple and obvious to few people, many others spend a lifetime in finding out what they really want. Once that discovery is made then the qualities you suggested can take you to your goal.
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Swapna 3 months ago


Yes, passion and determionation are the real two components for excellence in any field. Though some may have the passion but lack of determination or confidence level put them behind. To a large extent a favourable feedback or rejuvinating their mental ability will be helpful in reaching the desired goal. Talent is their in each and every individual, if they practice it ritually it is sure that they will attain excellence in their respective areas
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Sunny 3 months ago


The 10000 hour idea is really fascinating. I first encountered it in Caldwell's book and since have observed it at work in numerous businessmen or businesses I know. Now when I look at successful business people or organizations I understand the issue of continually working at a problem/solution and also begin to see how important if not critical continual practice is.
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Musoland1 3 months ago


Thanks for the six points. Having studied over 200 amazing people - from Mozart to Curie and many others as mentioned at www.amazingpeopleclub.com - there is a pattern of interest linked to practice with specific problem solving aptitudes maybe derived from genes. So nature and nurture with discipline and determination.
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Martin Teguh 3 months ago


Those 6 keys are very valid. If we have those 6 traits in our life, every profession we have, we will be successful.
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Dr.Priya M Vaidya 3 months ago


Very interesting article. Excellence is a reflection of harmony within and without. Enlightening play of discipline, dynamism and devotion to be the best!!! Dr. Priya M Vaidya.
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Vikas 3 months ago

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I completely agree with this thought and I'm glad to see Outliers as one of your recently read books. "Effortless Mastery" is another book you might want to look at.
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Artem Ayupov 3 months ago


That is a very interesting idea about hard practice ritualizing. In many field of human excellence-related activity it is used widely: academic orchestra concerts, surgical operations, airplane piloting. It would be fine to introduce such "rituals" in my own perfection path.
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Soumala 3 months ago


The harder part is when we like more than one thing - then we either don't have enough time to devote to all our likes or can not decide resolutely which one of the likes to pursue with gusto.
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Alan Y 3 months ago


I think one confusing factor in discussions like this is that for many people the thing they "love" is precisely what they were born to do. And genetic potential is part of that birth.
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Shamraj Shasikumar 3 months ago


The excellence that we are seeking for is focus on our innate talents which must be translated to strengths and leads to high performance (individual). Then few things that been focused and deliberate energy channels will leads to what we want to achieve.
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Oidada 3 months ago


Speaking from my own experience I notice that when I "plateau" at some endevour I need to find a new tack. Sometimes I can't figure out what that new approach is and then i get the bright idea to ask someone else who is qualified. And then i get the bright idea to ask even more people who can help me. Brilliant really.
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Nleeser 3 months ago

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If you haven't already you should read the book Mindset The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck which supports what you are talking about with definitions of Fixed Mindsets and Growth Mindsets.
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Tony 3 months ago in reply toNleeser


Yes, I should have included Mindset among the books. Carol Dweck is another of the great researchers in this field.
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John Quaresma 3 months ago


Inspirational and daunting, as anything truly meaningful should be :-) I think ultimately the lesson is that ambition is great, but ultimately focus and endurance win the day. I also think this can be made much more difficult in today's "ADD"-style culture
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Rick Thomas 3 months ago


A small nit: the quote is misattributed to Aristotle. The words are Will Durant's who was writing about Aristotle.
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to Rick Thomas


Rick, Wow, thank you very much. I've been misattributing that quote for years, and so have dozens of others. You are right: it is from Will Durant, describing Aristotle's philosophy.
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Sean Masters 3 months ago


Malcolm Gladwell nailed this in his book, "Outliers". Opportunity + practice = expertise. Notice there is nothing about "innate talent" at all in there - nobody is born a tennis star or a math whiz, you don't have magical muscles that make you faster on the court - your body has adapted to the accumulated pressures you have put on it over decades of training and now you're an NBA pro. If you don't have the opportunities available to you and don't put the time in (and according to Gladwell we're talking at least 10,000 hours, here, not "a couple of hours a week"), you will not be an expert.
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Madhavi 3 months ago in reply to Sean Masters


I think innate talent roughly equalling to innate inclination is definitely a desirable ingredient. Look at children, some children learn the alphabet faster than learning colours, while for some it is the other way round. I've seen some folks have an ear for music, and it definitely did not come from 10000 hours of practice. I believe inner inclination is necessary to trigger/activate ones sense of wanting to explore more, learn more, achieve more, get to the depths of things in their fields. Of course that pursued further will only lead to excellence. Basically the key is to discover things that truly excite oneself!
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Tom Getchius 3 months ago


Is there rationale and science that supports tackling the difficult problems first? In thinking of this from the perspective of a musician, I would start by reviewing the piece, identifying finger numbers and phrasing through technically challenging sections before tackling the really challenging stuff. Otherwise, I agree and connect with the other 5 points.
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Heather Brynn 3 months ago in reply to Tom Getchius


Although I am not a musician myself, I would think that reviewing the piece, identifying finger numbers and phrasing through technically challenging sections would all fall under what the author deems "the most challenging thing." I think what he is emphasizing is that you don't get distracted by smaller, more menial tasks that don't have long-term value. All of these activities that you list, on the other hand, are steps toward achieving a bigger goal.
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Mike Kunkle 3 months ago


Some of my business colleagues have smirked at this over the years, but I attribute much of the success I've enjoyed in corporate America to my early musical pursuits (continuing through college education and a few years of professional performing) and what I learned about the discipline of practice, the need for good instruction and coaching, the value practicing correctly and using rituals, the importance of rest and recovery, and the psychology of performing. While still a passion, music did not turn out to be the right career choice for me, and I took another path that led into the corporate training field, helping others become more successful. The parallels are clear to me, if not others, and were an important foundation for me. I'm still working on applying your advice in other areas, Tony, but I have recommitted to it and appreciate the research and advice.
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Dklaila 3 months ago


Sounds like what we hear at the Zendo.
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Sally Holloway 3 months ago


Hardly new news though. As you say, Aristotle nailed it over 2,000 years ago. Twyla Tharp personifies it best for me as outlined in "The Creative Habit". Expect to see Merlin Mann's take on the theme in his upcoming book http://inboxzero.com/inboxzero too.
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Tony 3 months ago in reply to Sally Holloway


The news, Sally, is not the recognition that practice is critical, but the very specific ways in which we must practice to achieve excellence -- understandings that have come out of research done mostly in the past 20 years.
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notmd 3 months ago


Tony..I like the list on areas you have helped clients improve their skills..." By relying on highly specific practices, we've seen our clients dramatically improve skills ranging from empathy, to deeply relaxing"..now the deeply relaxing is something i can shot for..I actually have applied the reverse thinking of what you are suggesting to golf..I always knew i could improve my golf game if I practiced(never fooled myself about genetics) so a few years ago i stopped keeping score and didn't practice..I found that i was "deeply relaxed" when i played golf while the rest of the foursome kept complaining about their putting (which they practiced for 5 minutes before the round)..the funny thing is that my game has improved or so i am told..
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Loren Paulsson 3 months ago in reply to notmd


I measured a similar effect while training for a relay this spring. But I still tend to think different people have differing levels of genetic potential.
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